One of the best reasons to visit Thailand is the incredibly tasty food, often prepared with special spices and fresh ingredients. Because your local Thai takeaway can never be as good as the real deal, the best thing to do is to learn how to prepare this delicious food yourself!
Perhaps cooking isn’t the first thing that comes to mind while on holiday. Still, taking a Thai cooking class is a lot of fun! You’ll learn more about exotic ingredients, flavors, and cooking techniques – plus, you get to eat what you prepare.
So, put that apron on, fire up that wok, and let’s get cooking!
Buying food on the market
You can follow cooking classes all over Thailand. However, Chiang Mai is considered to be the capital of cooking classes, as there’s a huge choice of vastly different classes, the majority of which is rated very highly.
We chose to participate in the Daily Class + Market Tour option at the Smart Cook Thai Cookery School, which teaches you how to prepare seven different dishes on a local farm and also includes a tour of the local market.
First stop was Somphet Market; a small, traditional fruit and vegetable market with lots of stalls. This is where we met Pear, our tour guide/cooking instructor for the day. During her guided tour she showed and made us smell, the main ingredients we would be cooking with that day. These included galangal, kaffir lime, and Thai basil, but also more familiar ones such as carrots, broccoli and small, round eggplants.
Although Sander and I were already used to food shopping on Thai markets, we still enjoyed the tour. Finally, someone could tell us what all those strange looking vegetables were!
After our tour on the market, we were dropped off at the train station. From here, we got on a third class train and traveled to the outskirts of Chiang Mai among the locals. My sister and brother-in-law were visiting and had come with us as well. Locals unabashedly eating entire meals, little kids peeping at us through seats, a rattling fan in the ceiling; they just couldn’t believe their eyes. Fantastic!
After a stopping at a couple of stations, we finally arrived at our destination: Smart Cook’s farm.
We all chose seven recipes to prepare. I chose, among others, the yellow curry, the clear tofu soup, sweet & sour stir fry and spring rolls. Sander chose to make papaya salad with shrimp, chicken curry, mango sticky rice and chicken pad thai.
Bike ride through the Thai countryside
Halfway during the day it was time for a break and we went on a bike tour of the Thai countryside.
Besides green paddy fields, we saw how different fruits, vegetables, and spices were cultivated. There were regular stops in between; either to explain something or for a tasting session. To finish off, we had a look at one of the local temples.
A great day
Although we attended the cooking class was just for fun, I definitely learned a thing or two as well: combining flavors, folding spring rolls and using a pestle and mortar… all completely new to me. It was a day in which we learned a lot; we cooked, ate and, above all, had a lot of laughs.
It’s a fun day out for all ages!
Smart Cook Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai
The cooking class, including the guided tour of the market, the train ride and the bike ride, lasts about 5 hours and will cost you about 1,500 Thai Baht per person. Food, drinks, and transport to your hotel are included. The instructors speak very good English and will lovingly teach you more about Thai cuisine. At the end of the day, you’ll be given a book of recipes, so you can prepare these amazing meals at home as well.
Besides the Daily Class + Market Tour, there are several shorter classes available as well, including ones that last a single morning, afternoon or evening. You can book ahead of time or up to one day in advance at your hotel or a travel agent in Chiang Mai.